Firstrade brokerage review, rating, pros and cons, commissions, fees, account minimums, trading platform, IRA investment research tools, education, and customer service.


Firstrade Rating:  Firstrade rating

  • Stocks & ETFs: $0
  • Options: $0
  • Mutual Funds: $0

Overview of Firstrade

Firstrade doesn’t advertise very much; but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. As it turns out, the brokerage firm is one of the best values in the industry. Here’s what we found:

Range of Investments

Firstrade Investments Rating

Firstrade customers can buy and sell equities, bonds, mutual funds, options, fixed-income securities (including munis, Zeros, Strips, and CD’s), ETF’s, and closed-end funds. Penny and OTC stocks that trade above 10¢ are available as well. Not available are warrants, precious metals, currencies, futures, options on futures, and cryptocurrency trading.

Customer Service

Firstrade Customer Rating

The Firstrade website has a robo chat function named Sammi that is staffed around the clock, 365 days a year. The broker’s agents are on the phone less frequent hours (weekdays from 8:00 am till 6:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time). Besides its domestic phone number (800-869-8800), the broker also provides an overseas number and a call back service. A customer support e-mail address (service@firstrade.com) is also available, as is a feedback form, a fax number, and a snail mail address.

During a trial run of Firstrade’s chat service, we got Sammi first, and had to go through several requests lasting 2-3 minutes to get transferred to a human chat rep, a slight nuisance.

The brokerage firm has never had any branch locations. It used to operate Saturday hours at its headquarters in Flushing, NY; but no longer does.

Cost of Trading

Firstrade Cost Rating

Firstrade has joined the ranks of $0 commission brokers. Stock, ETF, and closed-end fund trades cost nothing, and this includes penny and over-the-counter securities. Even option trades cost nothing, as Firstrade has eliminated per-contract charges (exercises and assignments are still $14.95).

All mutual funds trades are now commission-free as well. Some funds may impose a load, however. The broker-dealer charges a short-term redemption fee on mutual fund sales that occur less than 90 days after purchase. The fee is $19.95.

Fixed-income products continue to carry trading fees. Most debt securities are priced on a net yield basis, which means purchases have a markup priced in, while sales will be marked down. Primary market CD’s are a rare exception with a $30 commission.

All of these prices assume online order submission. Broker-assisted trades over the phone are a different story. Equity and no-load mutual fund trades submitted through this avenue are $19.95. Option contracts are priced at 50¢ each plus the base $19.95 commission.

A securities account at Firstrade comes with zero fees. We found no annual, low-balance, or maintenance charges. Moreover, the company does not require any deposit to open an account.

Firstrade Promotion

$0 commissions + up to $200 in transfer fee rebates.

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Mutual Funds

Firstrade utual Funds Rating

Firstrade’s mutual fund screener provides a lot of search criteria that can be used to scan the securities markets for potential investments. Some of the variables we found include portfolio turnover, total assets, minimum purchase (both in dollar amount and number of shares), load status, fund category, and risk rating.

Using the screener, we found 8,340 funds that were open to new investors. This isn’t a large list by any stretch of the imagination; but it is a much better offering than at any other zero-commission broker. Furthermore, 3,213 of these funds have no load (and of course no transaction fee).


Firstrade Investing Review


Fund profile pages at Firstrade are simply populated with data from Morningstar. Even the format is the same. The advantage of this system is that traders get good information. A fund can be added to a watchlist, and a link to a fund’s prospectus is included on the profile.

Firstrade’s mutual fund order ticket allows for the reinvestment of dividends and capital gains (not dividends or capital gains). A dollar amount must be used on a mutual fund order (share amount is not possible). The order ticket also restates several important features of the fund, such as load status.

ETF’s

Firstrade ETF Rating

As we have already mentioned, every exchange-traded fund in the United States is commission-free at Firstrade. That’s the first advantage the brokerage firm brings to the table in this category. The next is its very good ETF screener, which offers many search criteria. We found 2,190 ETF’s available for purchase.

Once again, Firstrade simply pulls information from Morningstar to populate ETF profile pages. We found information on portfolio composition, news articles, ratings, and performance history. Funds that have option chains will have a link to contracts.

Trading ETF’s is a different process than trading mutual funds. Instead of using web pages, ETF trades must be submitted on the broker’s trade bar, which will be discussed next.

Website

Firstrade Trading Tools Rating

The Firstrade site isn’t the best designed in the industry, but it does provide a user-friendly experience. One of its best features is a trade bar that sits at the bottom of the monitor. It is able to trade stocks, ETF’s, and options. In fact, trades for these securities must be placed using the trade bar.


Firstrade Trading Review


Stocks and ETF’s offer market, limit, stop, and trailing orders. More advanced types such as OCO and contingent aren’t available. Duration choices include day, good for 90 days, and extended hours. Direct-access routing is not available. Margin requirements are displayed for an entered ticker symbol, and special instructions such as all-or-none are available.

The order ticket has a second format that displays abbreviated information on a stock or ETF. Data includes a small graph with up to 5 years of price history, Morningstar rating if any, and a list of news headlines.

The ‘Home’ tab displays a screen with a summary of vital information, such as market movers, account balance, a watchlist, order status, and position information. Small graphs show index movements, and a list of quick links shows the most common account functions, such as uploading a document or transferring assets.

Firstrade’s charting program once again is borrowed from Morningstar. Over 40 years of data can be displayed. The software offers company events, indicators, drawing tools, and nine display styles. Extended hours price action can also be presented.

At one point in time, Firstrade did have a desktop platform; but it is currently out of commission, and given the broker’s new pricing schedule, it probably won’t be back.

Mobile App

Firstrade App Rating

Firstrade’s mobile app functions on Android and Apple phones. A new update for iPhone offers some great features. Touch ID is now integrated. Charting is much more advanced with a new horizontal mode.


Firstrade App Review


During our testing, we found the graphing program easy to use. There is a great deal of customization as well. Colors can be changed, labels can be added or deleted, and so forth. We found around 100 technical indicators, a very large selection for a mobile trading platform.

The order ticket offers the same order types as the website’s trade bar. Position information is displayed on the app, but missing is live streaming video news. We also would like to see a check deposit added soon. And mutual fund trading is still not possible on the app.


Firstrade Mobile Review


Managed Account Services

Firstrade Account Rating

The broker-dealer in our survey has done a good job thus far. This category will be its first failure. Unfortunately, Firstrade has not rolled out any type of managed account services. It does not yet have a robo advisory service, although we think it would be a good addition to its range of offerings. Financial advice from human advisors is not possible at any price.

Option Tools

Firstrade Options Rating

Firstrade customers can buy and sell option contracts either on the broker’s website or mobile app. Option chains can be located on the website by going to a stock profile and clicking on the ‘Option Chain’ link at the top of the site. A large window will generate from the trade bar at the bottom. Here, contracts can be viewed. Firstrade’s software offers calls and puts plus a few multi-leg strategies, such as long straddle and vertical call spread. Index options can be selected as well.


Firstrade Trading Review


The best tool Firstrade offers in this category is OptionsPlay. Available on the website under the link ‘Options Wizard,’ this software is able to suggest bullish and bearish trades for any entered ticker symbol. Profit and loss diagrams are shown, and there are more multi-leg strategies than the website offers.

Retirement and Education Accounts

Firstrade IRA Rating

Firstrade offers Traditional, Roth, and Rollover IRA’s. For small businesses, it also provides SEP and SIMPLE varieties. Retirement accounts at Firstrade come with no on-going fees; and there is no charge to close an IRA, either. The broker offers a variety of target-date mutual funds for retirement accounts. We found products from American Century, T. Rowe Price, and Vanguard. Missing is a solo 401(k) option.

For education saving, Firstrade offers the Coverdell account and UGMA/UTMA accounts. There is no 529 plan.

Firstrade’s site has a ‘Retirement & Planning’ tab in the top menu. Here, there are calculators, information on the available account types, and upcoming important deadlines for contributions.

Global Investing

Firstrade Global Investing Rating

Firstrade does not offer access to foreign securities trading on foreign markets. It does offer some OTC securities that are issued by foreign companies. For example, we found Air Canada, Inc. trading over-the-counter under the ticker symbol ACDVF. American Depository Receipts are also available.

Firstrade is one of the few brokers to offer accounts to people living outside of the United States. Currently, residents of ten foreign countries are eligible. These locations include China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore. These are Chinese-speaking countries, and Firstrade offers a Chinese language site (www.firstrade.com/content/zh-cn/welcome).

Security Research & Financial Education

Firstrade Research Rating

Firstrade customers who don’t quite have all the knowledge or experience in investing can find decent resources on the company’s website. For example, at the top of the site there is a tab aptly entitled ‘Education.’ This section contains webinars, brief articles, and some videos that cover a range of investment topics, such as ETF basics and how to place an options trade. There is also an investment glossary that could come in really handy for beginners.

As with other securities, stock profiles contain information pulled verbatim from Morningstar. This method produces enormous amounts of info, from Morningstar’s analysis to return history to dividend payments.

A bond screener on the Firstrade site is arranged by debt type (muni, corporate, etc.) and maturity dates. During our testing, we found it easy to use; although some bond details took longer than normal to load. The bond order form is straightforward.

Comparison

Three other brokers offer zero-commission trading: WeBull, Robinhood, and M1 Finance. None of them offer mutual funds. Webull and M1 Finance don’t offer options or fixed-income trading. Robinhood and Webull don’t offer retirement or education accounts. Firstrade has the best customer service of the bunch. Overall, Firstrade is easily the top dog in this category.

Compared to other brokers that do charge commissions, Firstrade still manages to provide a great value with its trade bar, mobile app, financial education, options trading, and no-fee IRA’s.

Recommendation

Firstrade would be a great broker for active traders who are content with using a trade bar to submit orders for stocks, ETF’s, and options. Because the broker’s exercise and assignment fees are rather high, option traders who plan to hold contracts to expiration might want to consider Robinhood, who does not charge exercise or assignment fees.

Chinese speakers who live outside the United States and want to trade securities on American exchanges should definitely open an account here.

Firstrade Brokerage Review Summary

Firstrade is a fantastic value. With bonds, IRA’s, and mutual funds, this broker can provide services that $0 brokers cannot. And with no commissions, it can also deliver what Fidelity, Ally Invest, and Schwab can’t.

Firstrade Incentive to Open Account

$0 commissions + up to $200 in transfer fee rebates.

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Firstrade Commissions

InvestmentsPrice
Stocks and ETFs $0
Stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds broker assisted $19.95
Options $0 + $0 per contract
Mutual funds $0
Treasury Bills, Notes, Municipal and Agency Bonds, Zeros & Strips net yield basis
CDs $30 for primary market CDs, net yield basis for secondary market CDs


Firstrade Account Fees

FeeAmount
IRA Setup Fee$0
Annual IRA Fee$0
Roth IRA conversion or Recharacterization Fee$25
Full Account Transfer Out$75
Partial Account Transfer Out$25
Outgoing Wire Fees (Domestic)$30
Outgoing Wire Fees (International)$50
Account Closing Fee$0


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Firstrade Brokerage reviewed by TopRatedFirms.com Rating: 4.5